This post contains spoilers for Fringe season 5.
With last Friday’s episode, “Five-Twenty-Ten”, we have officially breached the halfway point of Fringe’s ultimate season. The story was getting along fine; the team had to retrieve tapes that Walter had hidden which contain parts of a plan to get rid of the Observers. At first, I thought this was the start of a season that would play out as a treasure hunt. In a way, this is accurate; each episode since has been dedicated to retrieving the parts of this plan. However, it’s not the primary focus, really. Number one, the tapes are ambered in the lab at arm’s reach, and number two…
Etta Bishop died.
So sudden, so unexpected was her death that I feel like it acted as a catalyst for character transformations.
Let me explain: every single character has changed, basically overnight (except for one, but I’ll get back to that).
I think Peter, the loving father and husband, has suffered the most dramatic changes. Not only did he pull away as he did when Etta was kidnapped, but he got a flash while torturing an Observer that implanting Observer tech in his brain would give him an edge over the invaders. With this edge, he can more forcefully and intelligently execute the only thing he has on his mind: revenge. At first, the changes enacted by the implant were minimal. He became a Peter on steroids. Now, with the latest episode, he has the demeanor, the speech pattern and the impending baldness of the very people he is trying to beat. Not only that, but he is making the same mistakes his own father, Walter, made when Peter died. Peter’s motto, “be a better man than your father”, is ringing especially hollow. It is particularly ironic that Peter told his father that he wouldn’t “let him” turn back into the man Walter used to be, when Peter’s very physiology was changing. He’s gone further than he’s ever been, alienating Olivia in the process.
Poor Olivia; she is also changing, but in the opposite direction. She told herself that for once, she would be open and honest about her feelings so that she and Peter can grow stronger together, not apart, as once they did when Etta was kidnapped. I saw this in the way she called Peter while she was watching a tape of baby Etta; the “old” Olivia wouldn’t have let herself appear so vulnerable. The look of disgust and panic she had when Peter told her he had implanted the tech confirmed her fears that all of her efforts were in vain. She probably regrets taking Walter’s advice that he gave her in “An Origin Story”; that the pain of Etta’s death is part of her legacy, and that she and Peter need to live it together.
Speaking of Walter, he is running around terrified that he is reverting to the “old” Walter. I definitely saw hints of this in John Noble’s brilliant acting; flashes of Walternate peeking through the facade. Now that the pieces of his brain are reinstalled, the one-track mind, god-complexed man that he used to be is slowly taking over. He was sure Peter’s love would keep him tethered, but not only is Peter not himself, Nina confirmed last episode that love, as strong as it is, isn’t enough.
What is enough? I’m thinking it has something to do with Astrid Farnsworth, the only character of the core-four who hasn’t changed. She is still the ever-loving mother figure to Walter, the confidant to Olivia, the sister to Peter. She is still, regrettably, relegated to a supporting role in most episodes. However… I am envisioning that this will change. What gives me that impression? The kiss on the cheek she gave Walter at the end of the episode. That kiss… It reminded me that Astrid is the anchor of the Fringe family. She is the lighthouse, the moral compass, the tether. That is why I think that she will be the one to keep everything from falling apart. She is the one that will bring back the characters as they are following roads that lead away from their core selves. I think all of this, but truly, I hope it comes to pass. Because it is what the character deserves, and it is, for me, the logical conclusion for Astrid, who has always been so important but overshadowed.
I’m rooting for you Astrid; the Fringe family needs you. Because love, on its own, is strong. But love and family are stronger.